By Hael Ghaleb, DC
Palmer College of Chiropractic, San Jose, CA
My name is Hael Ghaleb. On July 15, 1987 I was born in Sana’a, Yemen. Since my father was a United States (U.S.) citizen at the time, I was also born a U.S. citizen, abroad. Most people who see my birth certificate think my father was serving the military, but he was actually a musician. He partied until he was about age 40 and decided to settle down and create a family. My mom was 20 when they got married and she wanted to study Russian Literature, but of course my father had other plans. After I was born, my father decided to move back south, to Aden, where both of their families live. I can recall driving through the mountains, living by the sea, and can also recall parts of preschool and kindergarten.
In the fall of 1994, a civil war broke out between the North and the South. We were far away from the conflict, so some family members who were near the fighting moved into our apartment. We were living in my maternal grandfather’s place, next door to a diplomat. The mansion he lived in had big gates and villas. I remember bullets bombarding his house until he surrendered, and the soldiers in Jeeps rolling in, as well as the day the war ended, with the North winning. My father knew then that we had to leave the country.
No one in the family was happy about the decision, but they all understood why it needed to be done. To my dad, it was a sign from God, to take your kids back to the U.S. where it was safe so that they can get a proper education. We flew into Chicago in late October 1995, and then we drove east to Dearborn, Michigan. Seeing snow for the first time, I was thinking how weird it was that houses in America had roofs that dispersed rain water rather than collect it, or how weird it was not to being able to see mountains anywhere I look. I missed living by the sea and mountains, but I was so happy and excited because everything was new. The cars, the roads, the police, the businesses, and the people were all different from what I was used to.
It was a bit difficult at first. All the kids called me “boater”, I had never seen a computer in my life, and for once I didn’t have to wear a school uniform. My brother and I conformed quite easily, especially given the fact that we were still surrounded by an Arab American community, making the transition a lot easier for us. Unfortunately, around that time was when the World Trade Centers fell, and shortly after that, my parents divorced. My mother moved out of the house and we moved in with her, but of course kept half of our stuff with our dad and we were welcome there any day of the week. It was hard of course, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t change a thing. They both remarried a few years later and produced more children with their new spouses. I went from being the oldest of two to the oldest of seven in no time. My parents seemed a lot happier, I was almost done with high school, and I was also excited by the prospect of raising a baby brother and sister.
Time seemed to fly the older I got, and before I knew it I was attending Wayne State University with a focus on Pre-Medicine and Biology. I was dating my high school sweetheart at the time. She lived in Canada and we would have to cross the bridge or tunnel once or twice per week to see each other. She started attending Wayne State as well and I moved out of my house into an apartment next to school for the last two years of my undergraduate studies. I wasn’t sure about becoming a medical doctor and dealing with insurance companies or big pharma. I felt home sick even though home was just a ten minute drive. My ex-girlfriend came from a Chaldean Catholic family and were strict about who their daughters’ date. They never did accept me of course, being a Muslim and asking for their daughter’s hand in marriage. The longer we kept seeing each other the harder it was to break up, but unfortunately our relationship ended after 5 years. Since then I was lost about what direction I wanted to take with my educational career, until I discovered Chiropractic medicine and finally chose a school in San Jose California. Everything seemed to be working out, for if I didn’t move to California my ex and I would continue to struggle with the break up and hurt each other. I broke her heart either way when I moved west, but I had to go out on my own and restart my life. I felt like a brand-new man with a different perception. The easy-going lifestyle, wonderful weather, culture, sports, and of course Silicon Valley were right up my alley.
But it was just as difficult as it was wonderful. The home sickness was severe, and I missed my little siblings dearly; they were growing so fast. I pushed on, with each challenge or problem that I had to face, without my family, molding me into the man I am today. Through the good times and the bad times, I made a great deal of friends inside and outside of school and became so close to so many of my peers. We still speak almost every day and I’ve been back to California on two occasions to watch them get married. As I sit here at this moment typing, I realize that it has been 3 years since I graduated Chiropractic school. That period of my life flew by so fast, and at the end of the day all you can do is laugh. You dread the time it will take you to reach your goal, but once you reach it (ironically) you’re stuck reminiscing about the journey.